Everyone reacts differently when they meet you and your sister for the first time.
Some blink. Some laugh. Some do cartoonish double takes.
You've seen it all before.
But the way Stefan looks at you, at her, it's as if the whole concept itself is brand new.
There's something hidden behind his eyes, though you don't really know him that well, you can see it. A well guarded secret you'll probably never learn. Taking in the two of you, noticing that, except for the slight curl to her hair and taste in fashion, she's your spitting image.
"Katherine," she says, offering a hand.
Stefan's not so shocked as to be rude, shaking it kindly and introducing himself. You almost sigh at the sight. Knowing the look, knowing how she gets. Taking a breath, you count to ten and put on your best smile.
Katherine loops her arm through yours on the walk home.
"You've been keeping secrets," she says in a non-accusatory way.
"What are you talking about?"
"Tall, dark, and handsome? You were planning on keeping him all to yourself, weren't you?"
Lips press into a thin line, you try to walk a little faster but she just pulls until you stop.
"I barely know him. We met just the other day."
"Let me guess," she says, tilting her head up toward the afternoon sun. "In that creepy old cemetery while gathering your thoughts."
It's an old trick, being able to read each others mind, you don't even bother to ask.
"God Elena, why do you even go there? It's so morbid."
"Not quiet enough if you're meeting cute boys and not sharing," she sing songs as you start up the walk to the house. "Tell me he has a brother."
Uncle Gray is sitting on the porch with one of his medical journals, and waves as you approach. When you say hello in unison, he just laughs like it's a joke that doesn't get old.
Stefan does in fact, have a brother.
You meet Damon in the foyer of their enormous house, and are immediately drawn in by his ridiculously blue eyes, that seem take in every inch of you. There's some sort of longing in them too, tinging on desperate and remorseful, just like Stefan. You wonder what it was, that gave these Salvatore boys such haunted looks.
When Katherine walks in behind you, those eyes of his widen just the slightest bit, and he covers it up quickly but you know immediately that Stefan didn't tell him about her just for this reaction.
"Well," he starts with a smile that just oozes with self aware charm. "There's a detail my brother forgot to mention."
Katherine, as with anything, takes it in stride offering her hand which Damon makes a big show of kissing.
"Katherine," she says, smiling off the kiss and nodding her head at you. "Elena."
"So who's older?" He asks with a curious wiggle of his eyebrows.
"I am," Katherine replies. "By three whole minutes."
"Well from one older sibling to another," he replies, pointing an open hand toward the living room. "I say welcome."
Katherine plops herself on the couch next to you, while Damon chooses a lush looking chair, and Stefan wanders in with a confused tilt of his head, despite the fact that he's the one who invited the two of you over.
Maybe it's because of Damon, the look exchanged between them seems pretty heated, though neither of them say anything to each other. For a long odd stretch it's like you're not even in the same room, and whatever baggage they have with each other, is silently playing out in front of your eyes.
"I'll take a scotch," Katherine says, pointing at the small table where a few bottles of amber colored liquid are perched.
Shooting a concerned glare is useless, you know, but do it anyway. Damon doesn't move from the chair where he can't stop looking at the two of you, and Stefan's eyebrows lift curiously as to whether she's serious or not.
After a second or so he moves to comply, and it takes all you have not to roll your eyes and sigh, because it doesn't matter who it is, no one can ever seem to say no to her.
Katherine smiles gratefully as he hands her the glass.
You're not happy about the way she looks at him.
"She likes you."
Perched against a headstone with a blank page of your diary staring back at you, Stefan sitting a few feet away. Head tilted toward the sky, hands clasped atop his knees, he looks like he's napping rather than hanging out.
The white of the paper suddenly becomes the most interesting thing in the cemetery as your cheeks start to flush. You hate this. Hate that she can still make you feel this way, though she's apologized for Matt about a hundred times over, there's still an air of insecurity hanging over your head because of it. And yes, you've forgiven her, even if Matt is the one who gave in, she's the one who pushed.
Stefan is smiling when you look up, eyes alight with amusement. It's enough to make you blush and look back down.
"In case you didn't notice," he says with a laugh. "Damon couldn't take his eyes off of either of you."
"So maybe I know a little something about sibling rivalry, and whether or not to be worried they'll step in where you don't want them to."
It's enough to make you feel the slightest bit better, offering a warm smile when you look up at him again. The sun is starting to sink behind the trees, and Aunt Miranda is not a fan of tardiness at her dinner table.
"It's getting late."
Rising to your feet and shoving the journal back into your bag.
"I should go."
Moving to your feet, a jagged edge from the tombstone catches your hand, and you hiss against the sting. A pool of red starts to form in your palm, and you see from the corner of your eye, how Stefan turns quickly away.
"Blood makes you squeamish?"
"Yeah," he says, tries to laugh but it comes out a groan.
It's almost funny, seeing a boy cringe over a tiny cut, and you move closer to tease him a little more. Brows furrow at the way he seems to turn in on himself, arms lifting to cover his face, and wow he must have a phobia or something because the reaction seems a bit severe.
"Sorry, bad joke."
His head snaps toward you lightning quick, and your heart freezes in your chest at how his face has shifted, but strangely there's no fear.
It's not the first time you've seen a vampire.
All you wanted was of drink of water.
It's the first thing you think of when trying to remember your mother. That and how cold the tile of the kitchen floor felt against your feet. How confused you were at the sight of daddy backing away from her, his eyes wide and afraid, the words oddly clear.
"What have you done," he said kind of quiet. Then again. "What have you done?"
She turned to you then, too fast to be normal, her face changed. The eyes as black as night.
"You have to go," he says, trying to hide his face again.
"Are you going to kill me?"
"What?" He turns back, face normal again. "No, I would never."
"I thought as much."
You move closer to him, crouch down and lift your fingers gently to his face where those spidery veins appeared. If he was going to hurt you, he would have done so by now. It's funny that he seems to be the one who's afraid in the moment, like you are the one that can bring harm to him.
Fingers through his hair.
"I know what you are."
Daddy decorates the room with a strange looking flower and sleeps on the floor between your beds every night after mommy disappears. You don't know where she went, or why, and daddy really doesn't like questions about it. Katherine is undeterred, and asks all the time, until finally daddy slams his hand on the kitchen table one day making the both of you jump.
You remember waking up in the car, Katherine curled up against you, and catching bits and pieces of a conversation daddy was having on the phone. You don't know what exactly he was talking about, but key words and phrases like she actually did it, on the run, and I have to keep them safe make your stomach hurt.
It feels like days before the car pulls up in front of Uncle Gray and Aunt Miranda's house. Which makes sense because they do live in another state, though you can't remember which one. On the porch, you and Katherine standing side by side, daddy puts hands on both your shoulders trying to make you understand why he has to go. But you'll be fine with your Aunt and Uncle. You'll be safe.
You remember chasing after the car, Katherine in tow, shouting for him to come back.
Katherine's arms are around you when your eyes snap open, breath shaking and short, she moves to smooth your hair.
It's hard to a remember a time where she hasn't come to your rescue. Years of night terrors after mom disappeared and dad just left you here. Still shaking you attempt to speak but all that comes out is a strangled sigh. She hugs you tighter, head shifting to rest against your back.
"It's okay Laney," she says quietly in your ear. "It was just a dream, it's over now."
You must have really been having a rough time because she hasn't called you that since you were twelve and she decided that you both were too old for nicknames. She doesn't let go, even when you've calmed down, and one hand reaching back for hers.
"Was it about mom?" She asks.
You nod against the pillow.
"I have to tell you something."
Stefan is the one who seems nervous, which is pretty funny considering. You wonder if his thunder was stolen by your preexisting knowledge, if he had some go to speech about belief's being changed simply because of what he is.
Sitting on the edge of his bed, you watch his expectant eyes for Katherine's reaction who, as usual takes it in stride. Vampires are real? Cool.
"How do you know?" he asks after an elongated silence.
"Our mother is one, too."
"So you think," Katherine chimes in.
"It wasn't a dream."
"I'm not saying it was," Katherine defends. "But we were what, eight, when she disappeared? Details fade over time Elena."
"I know what I saw."
You look at Stefan. He believes you.
"What is your mother's name?" he asks.
Katherine looks at you the second you at her, the thought never occurring that vampires might have social circles.
"Isobel Gilbert," said in unison.
Stefan smirks and holds back a laugh.
"Do you know her?"
"What about Damon?" Katherine asks.
Stefan blanches at that, head tilting toward the floor.
"I didn't tell him you know about us," he says after a beat.
"Because I don't know what he'll do," he says quietly. "Damon, well, he isn't like me. He feeds, and kills, and is every bit the storybook vampire you can imagine."
That gives you pause, and even Katherine looks a little put out at the revelation. Stefan has no intent to harm, you can tell that just by looking at him, but Damon you only met the once. Those eyes, god, those crazy blue eyes. If his own brother is worried, you and your sister know to be too.
"You have to ask him," Katherine says regardless. "We have to know."
Stefan gives in eventually, going to find Damon and warm him up to the idea that his secret is no longer that, leaving you and Katherine alone in his room. You watch idly as she starts to rummage through some of his things, never one to resist a good snoop, and telling her to stop is pointless because she'll do it anyway.
You keep one eye on her, and one on the door, just in case. She's thumbing through a couple of his books when you see a piece of paper flutter to the ground from one of them, and lean forward to see as she bends to pick it up.
Whatever it is makes her shoulders go rigid, and she quickly spins around with her arm extended, a picture held lithely between her fingers.
It takes a second to realize it could be a picture of you, or her, but it looks old. Katherine's fingers tap just below the border of the photo where a name appears to be written.
"What do you think it means?"
"It means," Katherine starts, stepping close. "They've been lying to us in more ways than one."
She shoves the picture in her purse, grabs your wrist, and pulls you into the hall.
"We are getting the hell out of here," she says firmly.
You can hear their voices as you make your way downstairs. Arguing from the sound of it, off in some section of the house you can't pinpoint. The words carry with a freedom that tells you they're well aware you wouldn't be able to overhear up in Stefan's room.
You want to leave, but Katherine puts her finger up to her lips, shuffling closer to the source. It's mostly muffled, the conversation, but it does seem to raise in volume the more heated it gets.
There's two of them. They can't be her.
Brows furrow at the statement, that Stefan's voice is the one that made it. Her, the girl in the picture.
You know what kind of tricks she could pull. Damon's voice now. This is easily something she's capable of.
They're human, Damon. Both of them. And they know what we are, but for whatever reason aren't afraid.
There's a rush of air and a hand on your shoulder, spun around quicker than you blink, and Damon stands in front of you with wild eyes that are no longer blue.
"Yeah," he says with a flash of fangs. "Maybe they should be."